Climate action presents an opportunity to grow the economy sustainably. The New Climate Economy report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate shows that up to 90% of climate actions required to stay below 2° warming are compatible with economic development and broadly shared improvements in living standards. Many of these investments are profitable even without considering their benefits for the climate. For example, there are huge health benefits to be gained in reducing air pollution in cities by shifting from cars to buses and bicycles.

To ensure that the Paris Agreement will be a sustainable success, active engagement is required to fully implement the INDCs and to ratchet up ambition in the coming years. Diplomats will therefore have to convey one key argument more convincingly than ever before: if we compare the costs and all benefits, it is clear that climate action is an imperative as it simply makes economic sense. Carbon-intensive fuels, resources and processes come at great cost to human lives, the environment, and the economy.

Diplomacy can go a long way in helping to create the conditions for the sustainable transition we need:

  • Cooperation: By bringing together partnerships and alliances, diplomats can help to overcome barriers to climate protection and, for example, ensure that international business activities and investments incorporate and internalise climate risks and opportunities more widely. Cooperation on innovation and deployment fosters the knowledge-based economy and opens up opportunities for trade and investment.
  • Integration: Geopolitical and distributional questions are often decisive for carbon choices, which are thus beyond the reach of environmental cooperation alone. Foreign policy perspectives can help to integrate the various preferences. Economic instruments can also help to address climate-fragility risks, e.g. with investments sensitive to volatile food provision, local resource competition and insecure livelihoods.
  • Dialogue: Diplomats can collect and communicate good practices and use them to make a more convincing case for climate action elsewhere. Often, realising the co-benefits requires connecting the climate discourse to other policy domains, e.g. energy or agriculture, and their stakeholders. Diplomacy is in a unique position to make use of its strong outreach network to encourage this.

These questions have been the subject of a report published and launched in autumn 2016 under the title Diplomacy - Catalyzing the Climate Economy. The report builds on an expert discussion at the German Federal Foreign Office organised by adelphi in November 2015.